Morgan Stanley on Wednesday posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits on strong equities trading revenue and as the firm held the line on compensation costs.
Here are the numbers:
- Earnings: $2.01 a share vs. estimate $1.91 a share, according to Refinitiv.
- Revenue: $14.52 billion vs. estimate $14.6 billion
The bank said that earnings rose 9.2% from a year earlier to $3.7 billion, or $2.01 a share, topping the $1.91 estimate of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. Companywide revenue rose 6.8% to $14.52 billion, just below the $14.6 billion estimate.
Unlike its rivals, which disclosed soaring compensation costs for Wall Street personnel in the quarter, Morgan Stanley kept a lid on expenses. The bank posted $5.49 billion in compensation expenses, essentially unchanged from a year earlier and below the $5.98 billion estimate of analysts surveyed by FactSet. That’s in stark contrast to Goldman Sachs, where pay costs surged 31% to $3.25 billion.
Shares of the bank climbed 2.6% in early trading.
In a strategic update, Morgan Stanley boosted its target for return on tangible common equity to 20% from 17%. It’s a milestone the bank has already achieved, reaching 20.2% returns in 2021 excluding merger costs, Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg said in a research note.
Morgan Stanley said that equities trading revenue in the quarter rose 13% from a year ago to $2.86 billion, roughly $400 million higher than the $2.44 billion FactSet estimate. The improvement was driven by rising prime brokerage revenue and a $225 million gain on a strategic investment.
Investment management also topped estimates, rising 59% to $1.75 billion because of the bank’s Eaton Vance acquisition. Analysts had expected $1.66 billion.
Meanwhile, wealth management revenue rose 10% to $6.25, essentially matching the $6.28 billion estimate, on rising asset management fees and growth in lending to clients.
Investment banking revenue rose 6% to $2.43 billion, just under the $2.54 billion estimate, on higher advisory fees from mergers activity. And fixed income trading generated $1.23 billion in revenue, a 31% decline from a year earlier and below the $1.47 billion estimate.
CEO James Gorman said in the release that his firm posted record revenues for the full year 2021, helped by strong results across the firm’s major businesses. Its giant wealth management division, a key element of Gorman’s strategy that was grown through several splashy acquisitions, grew client assets by nearly $1 trillion in the year to $4.9 trillion, he said.
“We have a sustainable business model with scale, capital flexibility, momentum and growth,” Gorman said.
Trading results across Wall Street have begun to return to more normal volumes after Goldman and JPMorgan Chase posted declines from record levels a year ago. Morgan Stanley has the No. 1 ranked equities trading business globally.
Shares of the bank have dropped 4.2% this year, underperforming the 8.6% gain of the KBW Bank Index.
JPMorgan and Citigroup each reported the smallest earnings beats in the last seven quarters, and Goldman Sachs missed estimates for fourth quarter profit because of elevated expenses. Wells Fargo had been the sole bright spot in bank earnings after it gave targets for higher interest income and lower expenses.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.